Brooklyn Nets: Realistic Expectations for 2013-14 Campaign
In the past, putting together a group of superstars and All-Stars had mixed results, but we won't take a deep look into all of that and will just focus on the Nets. The most important move in the offseason was obviously the trade that brought in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from the Boston Celtics in exchange for Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans and Kris Joseph (via Mike Mazzeo of ESPN).
With all of the offseason moves, what are the realistic expectations of this new-look Nets squad?
Top-4 Seed in the Eastern Conference
We haven't seen the new Nets super team in action yet, so to say that they're going to be the second-best team in the conference behind the Heat is unfair to the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and even the New York Knicks.
It all depends on how well this team can play together and the chemistry they develop over the course of the season. They could start off slow like the 2010-11 Heat team and then rapidly improve as the season progressed, or they may never find that rhythm and teamwork and end up like the 2012-13 Lakers, who barely even made the playoffs.
However, I expect this Nets team to finish as one of the top-four seeds in the East. Although it doesn't seem like much of an expectation, as the Nets finished fourth in the conference last season, but teams like the Bulls and Pacers are bound to keep improving and getting better as well.
If the team gels faster than expected, then the Nets can probably finish with the second seed, over the Bulls, Pacers and Knicks, but behind the Heat. In any case, expecting the team to be one of the top four in the conference is realistic and nothing extraordinarily shocking.
Deron Williams Will Regain His Superstar Status
At one point a few years ago, there was the ongoing debate of whether Chris Paul or Deron Williams was the best point guard in the league.
A few years later, Paul is unquestionably the best point guard in the league and Williams has fallen into relative obscurity, while a bunch of young, up-and-coming point guards have taken over the league.
Last season, Williams averaged a respectable 18.9 PPG and 7.7 APG per game on 44 percent shooting from the field (per Basketball Reference). But when you compare those averages to the 19.2 PPG, 10.5 APG and 47.3 percent shooting from 2007-2011, it seems that Williams has regressed in the middle of his prime.
Now with a full roster of talent from top to bottom, Williams has the perfect opportunity to show the league that he's still one of the best point guards in the league. He's healthy right now, there aren't talent excuses on his team anymore and next season will be the perfect test to evaluate his skills. He has a lot of options to work with, and as the best player on this team, the burden falls on his shoulders.
Injuries Will Slow Down the Team Towards the End of the Season
When players age and get older in the NBA, they never lose their skills or knowledge of the game. Some players, like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson, never really relied on supreme athleticism and explosiveness to succeed on the court.
The only thing stopping them from playing at a superstar level is injuries. Last season, we saw an old Lakers team start to break down at the end of the year while playing a rigorous 82-game season. Pau Gasol only appeared in 49 games and suffered a myriad of injuries, Steve Nash only played in 50 games and Kobe Bryant ended his season with a devastating injury to his Achilles tendon (via ESPN's Dave McMenamin).
With three members of the Nets' starting lineup at 32 years of age or older, it's hard to see this entire team play a full 82-game season without a few injuries. Garnett and Pierce stayed relatively injury free for the past few seasons, but Doc Rivers managed their minutes well and the expectations to perform well weren't as high.
The Nets Will Reach the Second Round of the Playoffs
The Nets saw their season cut short earlier this year, as they were unable to defeat a gritty Bulls team in Game 7 of the first round, which was a series they probably should've won.
With the revamped roster this year, the Nets have put themselves in a position to reach at least the second round of the playoffs. It's still a tough battle, as the Eastern Conference teams today are a lot better than in the last few years. The Knicks, Bulls and Pacers are all a threat to to compete in the playoffs, and that doesn't include the younger rebuilding teams like the New Orleans Pelicans and Cleveland Cavaliers, who both have a bright future.
If the Nets want to get further, then it may come down to which team they face in the second round. If they finish the season as the fourth seed, then the Heat will pose a tough challenge for them if they meet. If they end up facing the Pacers, Bulls or Knicks in the second round, then they have a much better chance of winning the series and moving on to the conference finals.